It turns out that Epcot had a few weeks on the calendar without a festival of some sort, so now comes the debut of the Epcot International Festival of the Arts. It will run weekends (Friday to Monday)  through February 20, just in time to get out of the way of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, which opens March 1.

It says Festival of the Arts, and certainly the media that come to mind — painting, sculpture and such — are part of it. But the festivaleers are also emphasizing performing arts and, to our interest, the culinary arts, as well.

PPG Rats

The article has been updated to include a statement from Park Plaza Gardens.

It appears that the owner of Park Plaza Gardens has stepped up its War of the Rodents with the property's landlord.

As the photo above shows, signs were placed in the windows of the shuttered landmark restaurant earlier Thursday stating in no uncertain terms why the place is closed. It wasn't any secret, as I told you in this article about the closing of Park Plaza Gardens.

Since the photo was taken, someone has placed cardboard over the signs.

Through Sara Brady Public Relations, Park Plaza Gardens released this statement: “After more than nine months since Ms. Demetree was forced to close the restaurant due to the building’s condition, signs were posted today simply to answer questions about the closure.”


Check out this video for the first look at the newly refurbished Planet Hollywood, now rebranded Planet Hollywood Observatory, at Disney Springs.

Opening date is unknown but likely next week. More later, including my interview with Guy Fieri.

Chefs gala 25 logo

The 25th annual Chef’s Gala, the food and wine fundraising event for Heart of Florida United Way, will be Saturday, Feb. 4, from 6:45 to 10 p.m. at Epcot’s World Showplace.

That’s a little earlier this year. Recent CG’s have been held in May, but organizers found there were too many conflicts. I think we’re all about ready for a good party by February, don’t you?

And this is a heck of a party. Area chefs are stationed in the behemoth event space at Epcot. Among the talent this year you’ll find some of our favorite restaurants, including K Restaurant Wine Bar, Urban Tide, and Soco. (See below for a full list.) (And click here for a hint of what Jared Gross from Urban Tide will be serving.)

And you don’t have to pay for admission to Epcot. Instead, you’ll be directed to a special part of the parking lot where buses will be waiting to take you through the backstage area of the theme park to the gala venue, which is kind of cool itself.

That said, tickets aren’t inexpensive. They’re $275 or $500 for a couple. But know that 95 cents of every dollar goes to the local programs supported by Heart of Florida United Way. Food, wine, live music, a peek at a part of Epcot few people get to see, and you’re doing something good for the community. It’s really a bargain.

Follow this link for more information and to purchase tickets to the 25th annual Heart of Florida United Way Chef’s Gala.

 Urbantide dining room

I enjoyed going back recently to Urban Tide, the very good seafood centric restaurant at Hyatt Regency Orlando. The reason for the visit was ostensibly to sample one of the dishes that will be served at this year’s Heart of Florida United Way’s Chefs Gala, which is earlier than usual, Feb. 4.

But I also wanted the chance to see how the restaurant was doing these days because the hotel has rejoined the SJO family. And you all know my policy.

I can’t tell you that Urban Tide is as good as it was in the past. I think it has gotten even better.

The food that chef Jared Gross served on my visit was top notch.